Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: February indoor plant party

A closeup of the blooms of an interspecific orchid hybrid. I love the yellow color too. So cheery on dark days.

Sorry, I’m late to the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day party. I didn’t realize it was already mid-February. How could I miss it with Valentine’s Day right before? Well, everyone here has been sick since Christmas. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

There’s so much blooming in my red dirt world so let’s get on with the show.

Among my indoor plants, I’ve forced hyacinths, and I’ve also bought some small daffodils already doing their groove thing.

Hyacinths 'Delft Blue' Garden Bloggers Bloom Day
Hyacinths ‘Delft Blue’ I forced this fall and winter. Dreamy aren’t they?

All of my hyacinths performed wonderfully except the white ones. Most of them rotted. I prepared them the same way as the others. I placed them in paper bags in the garage refrigerator in late August because we don’t get that cold in Oklahoma at the beginning of winter–at least most of the time. I used paper bags because we occasionally store fruit in that refrigerator. I was super busy throughout fall, so I didn’t get them on vase until mid-December. I then put them in the bulb closet in my kitchen so they could start growing roots.

Bulb closet in my kitchen.
Bulb closet in my kitchen.

All of them rooted except the white ones. They just sat there. I watched for green shoots on top too, but nothing. When I pulled up the bulbs, they were rotten. I don’t know why.

Hyacinths mature at different rates when you force them, so I pull them out of the closet when the green shoot is about 1/2-inch high. Then, I place them in a sunny window. Before long, they turn bright green and begin to grow. You’re simply fooling the plant that it’s spring. It’s tons of fun and a good thing to do with kids. I usually get two months of bloom.

See those in front with the yellow tips? They just came out of the closet today. The vase on the left is modern. The turquoise one may be modern too, but it has the Tye type shape. It came from England.
The hyacinth tips were yellow until they sat in sunlight for a few days. Then, they turn bright green.

I gave loads of already-planted bulbs to family and friends at Christmas. They make excellent gifts.

I noticed Trader Joe’s already has plenty of forced tulips and daffodils. Go ahead and buy yourself some. They don’t cost much, and they make this period before spring seem shorter. I bought these daffs and slid the plastic pots down into my containers. I watered and enjoyed them until they bloomed out. Because they are planted in potting soil, I can transplant them outside for bloom in spring 2018. Daffodils are such strong growers that they transplant pretty well even when forced in potting soil. Other forced blooms, especially those in water, do not.

Forced daffodils from Trader Joe's.
Forced daffodils from Trader Joe’s.

After Christmas, Whole Foods put their amaryllis on sale, so I snatched up two I love. They bloomed just in time for Valentine’s Day. Who says amaryllis (hippeastrum) are just for Christmas?

I’ve also been obsessed with orchids this year. There is no easier plant to bring into your home. By the time you see the orchid in the store, someone has worked very hard in a large greenhouse to make it bloom. We visited an industrial greenhouse orchid operation when we were in California for spring trials. I have those photos, and I should write a post about it. Would you like that?

Greenhouse growers take your phalaenopsis orchid from a tiny cutting and eventually bring it to bloom. Then, all you need to do is sit it on a table or mantel and give it some sun every couple of weeks. Oh, occasionally, you water it too.

It’s almost a plastic plant!

For larger orchids, you can do the ice cube trick every other week to water, but even that’s too much for mini-orchids. The mini-orchids and the interspecific (mixed species) are my current favorites.

An interspecific orchid I found at a box store.
An interspecific orchid I found at Lowe’s.
A closeup of the blooms of an interspecific orchid hybrid. I love the yellow color too. So cheery on dark days.
A closeup of the blooms of an interspecific orchid hybrid. I love the yellow color too. So cheery on dark days.

I like how the minis aren’t top heavy, and the blooms on the interspecific ones, shown above, are truly spectacular. I found the minis at Trader Joe’s and the interspecific ones at Lowe’s. You just have to shop every couple of weeks because orchid stock seems to be replenished every week or so. I have a couple of larger phalaenopsis orchids too. I nearly drowned one of them, so I repotted it in orchid bark and stashed it in the greenhouse. It seems happier. Orchids like to grow on tree branches in tropical rainforests. They don’t like wet roots.

Orchids like to grow on tree branches in tropical rainforests. They don't like wet roots. Click To Tweet

When I started posting a lot of orchid photos on my Instagram account, I got questions about reblooming. Well, my friend, Shirley Bovshow, made a video on getting your orchid to rebloom.

Here are my thoughts. If you want to try for rebloom, great. If you don’t, just compost your orchid after it blooms. It’s no different than buying cut flower bouquets–they cost about the same–and orchids bloom for months.

I hear you. It’s–gasp–a plant, not a flower! Yes, but even plants die, and that’s ok.

I hear you. It's--gasp--a plant, not a flower! Yes, but even plants die, and that's ok. Click To Tweet

I repotted two of my orchids–including the unfortunate drowning victim–and put them out in the greenhouse for now. I’ll place them by a window in my bathroom come summer. We’ll see if I can get them to rebloom. I’ve never tried, but I never bought so many orchids before either.

Most of my February blooms are indoors, but I have a few outside too. My hellebores started blooming today in fact. I trimmed back the old foliage a few days ago and accidentally cut off two blooms. It is one of those things that just happens I guess. Some people in milder climates don’t cut away the old foliage, but here it looks so bad I do. That way, everything is fresh, unhidden and ready to bloom. I have more to trim, but as you can see, I need to cut back the ornamental grasses too.

We are supposed to have a high of 68F today. I think I’ll get out there and garden.

Just one of my ornamental grasses that needs cutting.
Just two of my ornamental grasses that need cutting.

Yesterday, I contacted Grooms Irrigation Co. and asked for them to come out and estimate what it would cost to expand the irrigation system. Since we installed it in 2008, I’ve added three or four more borders. I should get the costs soon and get started. I told him we needed it done before June and the daylily regional tour. Hopefully, since I contacted them early, they can get to it soon.

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day everyone, and thank you, Carol, for once again hosting us.


Bulb story

red tulips with Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’

Once upon a time, there was a very earnest young gardener who imagined a field of tulips, ‘Red Emperor’ of course. She bought a big bag at the local store, came home, gathered her gardening bucket, her special bulb transplanter and gloves. Going outside, she dug holes at least three times as deep as the bulbs and then ever so gently placed the precious tulips in the ground. She heard a chattering in the trees above her, but, in a zen of planting pleasure, she ignored it. Five hundred red bulbs later and covered in dirt, she came inside, promptly ordered pizza for the kids and collapsed.

The next spring, she waited in anticipation for her red carpeted masterpiece . . . and got . . . nearly . . . nothing. Between the squirrels, moles and voles, her tulips became a winter smorgasbord. Some naturalists might find this story poetic justice, but the gardener wept and shook her trowel in the air in frustration.

Fast forward ten or fifteen years. Did she give up? No. She just learned to be more efficient in planting and to love bulbs other than tulips. Tulips are great, but they are like hard candy to the furry terrorists who live in my red dirt haven. So, now, I either take precautions surrounding them with chicken wire, or I plant them in a ring of Narcissus, that wonderful poisonous bulb no one wants to eat.

As for the squirrels, well . . . three furry predators, including one irascible pup, keep them at bay. In fact, I’ve seen nary a squirrel in my garden this fall. I can’t wait to see how the bird feeders fare.


I’ve also learned not to take myself so seriously. Thousands of bulbs later, I know not to worry so much about how the bulbs are planted, and I’ve expanded my repertoire beyond only the earliest blooming red tulips (although I still love them) to other beauties. A few new ones I’m trying this season are:

  • Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Queen of Pinks’ which I planted next to the blue Phlox divaricata and beneath a couple of roses. This bulb is an heirloom from 1944, and I’ve found I’ve become more interested in heirlooms in the time I’ve gardened.
  • Muscari Plumosum, feather hyacinth, which is an heirloom grape hyacinth good for naturalizing. Anything good for naturalizing has a better chance growing in Oklahoma.
  • The lily flowered Tulipa ‘Maytime’, which I’ve grown before and loved. This year, I am planting it with Tulipa ‘Red Riding Hood’, a Greigii tulip which blooms mid-spring. They may end up not blooming at the same time because ‘Maytime’ is a late spring bloomer. We’ll just have to see.
  • Leucojum aestivum, summer snowflake. Leslie introduced me to these lovelies last year, and she’ll laugh when she hears I bought more. I just want to see them all over my garden. Unfortunately, while I was planting, my bag of summer snowflakes went missing. I’ll find it I hope.
  • Last year, I fell in love with Hyacinthus orientalis, commonly called chestnut flower. I love the little double blooms. They should be forced or planted near a doorway to catch their fabulous scent.

    Byzantine glads
  • Narcissus ‘Aspasia’ is one of the few daffodils I bought because I have so many already. This is one of those purchases where when I found it I thought, “Huh?” However, it is an heirloom and extremely fragrant so maybe that’s why it found a place in my cart.
  • Not so happy with some of my previous crocus adventures since they don’t seem to want to return and increase year after year (probably due to our not-so-cold winters), I’m trying a couple of cultivars of Crocus tommasinianus, ‘Ruby Giant’ and ‘Barr’s Purple.’ We shall see.
  • Cindy sent me some Zephyranthes candida, white rain lilies, and I’ve put them wherever I found well-drained soil. They bloom in fall.
  • After reading Elizabeth Lawrence’s book, The Little Bulbs: A Tale of Two Gardens, I thought I could again grow crocus if only I could find a variety which likes it here, hence the tommies. ‘Snow Bunting’ is one Lawrence particularly liked for its early bloom. When I opened the package, the pearly bulbs fairly jumped into my hands and begged to be placed in the soil for their tips had already sprouted. For pure winter pleasure reading, I don’t think you can beat any of Lawrence’s books. They are as fresh and timeless as anything being written today.
  • Fire engine red Rhodophiala bifida, school house lilies or hurricane lilies were ones I want to cultivate, so I planted about fifteen of them this fall.
  • Curtiss Ann sent me more byzantine glads for my garden. I promptly planted those. I love their color and delicate form.

As you can see, there are so many bulbs to plant, and there are just about as many ways to put them in the ground. You may have read some scholarly garden articles with step-by-step instructions. As I became a more confident gardener, I quit trying so hard when planting bulbs or other plants for that matter. Here’s how I go about planting my bulbs.

Double white hyacinths last spring

There are three main things to consider, decent soil with humus, bulb pointy side up (or sideways if you can’t tell with some of the more unusual bulbs) and planted three times as deep as the size of the bulb. It’s that easy.

What isn’t easy is digging the holes. There is the stab method where you take your trowel or garden knife and stab into the soil. You hold the soil back and plunk the bulb in. Then, you let go of the soil and pat it back in. That works well for the smaller bulbs.

Another method is to dig a large round hole and place the bulbs pointy side up. You can plant several diverse bulbs together within the same space if they are about the same size. If one is larger like a daffodil, you might want to plant it deeper placing some of the soil over it and then plant the smaller bulbs closer to the top of the soil. ‘Snow Bunting’ doesn’t need to be planted very deep as it is very small.

I once fed my bulbs as I planted, but unfortunately, the organic foods like bone meal made my dogs become bulb marauders. Also, bulbs don’t need much food because their food is contained within the bulb. Over time, I found it didn’t make much difference if I fed them or not.

This fall, on top of my bulbs, I’ve planted ‘Imperial Antique Shades’ pansies and a variety of blue violas. I’m hoping for a big show. Let’s all come back in spring and see, shall we?